Empowering Karamoja Women through Commercial Agriculture

May 1, 2024

Karamoja women beneficiaries happy to receive tractors

UNDP Uganda/Joel Akena

Pastoral communities worldwide frequently face hunger and malnutrition challenges, threatening mothers, children, women, and youth. This situation directly undermines Sustainable Development Goal 2 (Zero Hunger) and the urgency of the 2030 Agenda, with only six years remaining for achieving the SDGs.  

In Uganda's Karamoja subregion, the situation is dire. Statistics from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report as of May 2023 show nearly half (45%, or 582,000 people) are in crisis, and an additional 8% (102,000 people) are in emergency. Kaabong district is the worst hit, with malnutrition rates as high as 18%. Food security has been worsening since 2020 due to climate shocks, pests, diseases, and insecurity. 

Karamoja women with the UNDP Resident Representative Ms. Nwane Vwede-Obahor (Middle left) and South African Ambassador to Uganda H.E. Lulu Xingwana (Middle) at the tractor handover event in Moroto

UNDP Uganda/Joel Akena

Christine Napeyok, a mother and member of the Home-Based Care women's group in Moroto, is a pillar of hope. In a region where women are the family's backbone, Christine has always shouldered the burden of providing for her children and family alone. 

"In Karamoja, a woman is a pillar,” says Christine. “Without a woman, children go hungry. When a mother is sick, the whole house suffers because no one else will find food." 

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) partnered with the South African Government and the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) in 2023 on an India, Brazil, South Africa (IBSA) Trilateral South-South Cooperation Fund – the Karamoja Green Belts Women-Led large commercial farming of cereals, legumes, and oilseeds. This initiative empowers women like Christine and uplifts marginalized groups like youth and children, from poverty, hunger, and malnutrition.  

Christine Napeyok, trying to drive a tractor during the handover event

UNDP Uganda/Joel Akena

"Through this project we started small, cultivating six acres of sorghum and green gram,” Christine explains. “We sold the surplus and kept some for-home consumption. The following year, we expanded to 78 acres, but unfortunately, it didn't go as planned. We learned from our challenges and never gave up. This year, we are equipped with these tractors, and are ready to go again this time more equipped and well prepared”. 

Implementing an agricultural project in an indigenous semi-arid pastoral community is not as easy. Moroto's 70-acre farm faced drought challenges, limiting success with crops. Early preparation and focusing on livestock, pigs, and poultry proved more successful in the dry belt. 

In Nakapiripiriti, women groups planted on 400 acres, harvesting green grams, sorghum, and sunflowers. They benefited 254 women and 10 men in the first year. 

Karamoja women beneficiaries harvesting and sorting sunflower seeds in Nakapiripiriti district

UNDP Uganda/Joel Akena

Nakapiripiriti's success attracted women from Nabilatuk and Napak to join this year (2024). To speed up planting, the project provided tractors, reducing costs and delays. The Ministry of Agriculture promises more tractors. 

The women groups agreed to share 30% of all produce to cater for family food needs, and to sell 70% of the produce, save 80% of the funds in their Village Saving Associations and utilize 20% of the proceeds as personal income to the each of the participating women. 

To improve the management skills of women's groups, a variety of trainings were provided on group constitution making, financial literacy, formal registration and formation of cooperatives and their values. The trainings equipped women's groups with essential knowledge and skills for effective organizational management. 

Some of the tractor equipment that has been handed over to Karamoja women.

UNDP Uganda/Joel Akena

Women groups were also given weather information to help them choose which crops to cultivate during this growing season. By understanding the weather patterns, these women could optimize their farming practices and maximize their yields, contributing to their economic independence and overall well-being. 

Action must be taken if all Ugandans are too be free from hunger by 2030. The Karamoja Cluster Gender and Analysis Report of 2022 confirms gender transformative approaches in peace and development are key to achieving Zero Hunger. Coordinated global efforts are crucial to tackle this complex challenge. 

Alakara Nooi!   

Read more from our previous blog here  


By Joel Akena, Communications Specialist; and Gemechis Gudina Wakene, Technical Specialist, Resilience